Visiting Dartmouth, Devon

Dartmouth is situated on the bank of the River Dart in South Devon. It is a truly picturesque town, combining heritage, fantastic shopping and places to eat, with a vibrant waterfront hosting an active sailing community. The annual Royal Regatta is one of the largest sailing events in the UK, and attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Britannia Royal Naval College, dating from 1863, overlooks the port of Dartmouth from its position on the hill; this is where all Royal Naval officers receive their initial service and leadership training, joined by many international Naval officers. The College is sometimes open for guided tours - and is thought to be the place where Queen Elizabeth met Prince Philip.

Dartmouth is a creative town - the small streets of the shopping heart of the town are bursting with local artists working in their shops and galleries. The Flavel Arts Centre has a varied programme of events and exhibitions to suit all tastes.

The town also boasts a strong historical and social heritage and guided walks around the old town can be arranged. The nearby Dartmouth Museum, situated in the 17th Century “Butterwalk”, shares stories of the town’s maritime history. The oldest preserved steam engine in the world – invented by Dartmouth born Thomas Newcomen - can be viewed at the Dartmouth Visitor Centre. Other places of interest include Bayard’s Cove Fort (1510), Dartmouth Castle (1488) and St Saviour’s (1372) and St Petrox (1641) Churches 

The Mayflower 400 programme in Dartmouth

Dartmouth’s Mayflower 400 programme is being developed by a team of volunteers, who are using their professional skills to create an incredibly ambitious programme of activity for the benefit of their community and to further enhance the town’s visitor offer through 2020 and beyond. Highlights include:

  • The Mayflower Heritage Trail paints a colourful picture of Dartmouth in 1620, and also includes some highlights from Dartmouth’s earlier and later history. The route is based on a map of the town drawn in 1619 and remarkably many beautiful historic buildings have survived from that time. Bayards Cove, the old harbour quay, is a focal point as the Mayflower and Speedwell moored in the river close by.
  • ‘Pilgrim: New Horizons’ is a newly-commissioned sculpture created by Mark Gregory and the students of Dartmouth Academy. The figure is made of galvanised steel, with worked copper panels, and stands strong on the South Embankment, looking out to the mouth of the River Dart.
  • The Grand Dart River Pageant will be held on Sunday, 30 August, 2020, and will launch Dartmouth’s core week of Mayflower activity, following from the annual Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta. Vessels of all shapes and sizes will take part, with flags and fancy dress, culminating in a sail- past of the South Embankment.
  • Mayflower Week will be all about involving the community in river and shore-based festivities. The week also sees performances combining British and American music and a screening of a specially commissioned programme of short films created by local students and led by director Peter Nicholson.
  • A wide variety of maritime events will take place during the summer months of 2020, such as Dartmouth Mayflower 400 Classics race and the ASTO Small Ships Race, with visiting warships and tall ships moored in the river.
  • The creation of a 10ft replica scale model of the Mayflower, built by local volunteers will go on display in Dartmouth Museum in 2020.
  • A rich cultural programme will run through 2020 with performances of the play Safe Haven, written by Derek Parsons and Keith Myerson, a specially commissioned Peal of Bells by the Dartmouth Bell Ringers and the Dartmouth Mayflower Anthem written by Ed Welch and Brian Patten.

You can read more about the events taking place in Dartmouth on the official Dartmouth Mayflower 400 website

Dartmouth and the Mayflower story

Having set sail from Southampton, the Mayflower, with Pilgrims from the north of England, and Speedwell, carrying the Separatists from Lieden in Holland, didn't get very far before the Speedwell began to take on water again - either because she carried too much sail, straining her timbers, or the direct result of sabotage by the reluctant crew. The ships diverted to Dartmouth for repairs, arriving on 23 August 1620.

According to passengers, the Speedwell was leaking like a sieve and required urgent attention. The Pilgrims were regarded with some suspicion by the Dartmouth locals and while the repairs were made in Bayard’s Cove harbour, the Mayflower moored upstream on the River Dart beside what is now known as Pilgrim Hill. While much has changed on the waterfront since, they would still recognise the Tudor Bayard’s Cove Fort, Lower Street, Smith Street, St Saviour’s church and Agincourt House, now the Bayard's Cove Inn.

It took about a week for the port's skilled craftsmen to make good the damage before the ships headed out into the English Channel, North Atlantic bound.

 

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Dartmouth Mayflower Highlights

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